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Employer Guidance for Creating Workplace COVID-19 Vaccination Programs

Jeff Griffin

As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, many employers are starting to consider setting-up onsite COVID-19 vaccination programs.

For many employers, operationalizing an onsite service like this may seem like nothing new since many have offered onsite flu shots as part of their workplace wellness programs for quite some time. That said, and as we all know by now, COVID-19 is nothing like the seasonal flu. Therfore, employers need to take heed of this advice as they begin planning for onsite vaccination efforts.

Most of the advice that follows comes by way of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of this writing, vaccine programs are not yet available to very many employers. Nevertheless, vaccination programs will eventually extend to additional workplaces as vaccine availability increases, meaning that employers should begin planning accordingly. 

As I addressed in an earlier blog post about employer rights with regards to offering and/or requiring workforce COVID-19 vaccinations, employers are in a unique position to help propel vaccinations, accelerating the country towards the 75% vaccination target that has been cited by top infectious disease experts as being required to fully eliminate the need for social distancing.

Company leaders find themselves in this unique position because it's widely believed that they can, in most cases, legally compel most of their employees to get vaccinated, making it compulsory and a requirement for returning to work. Regardless, just making vaccinations more convenient and easily accessible will also go a long way in helping to accelerate inoculations.

As I stated in my earlier blog post, and wish to reiterate here, just because something can be done doesn't necessarily mean it should be done. Setting that aside, today's blog post simply addresses the guidance the CDC is currently providing with regards to employer-led vaccination programs.

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Topics: COVID-19

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5 HR Technology Trends to Monitor in 2021

Jeff Griffin

With the pandemic entering its second year, many organizations have adopted remote work as part of their everyday business operations. Many employers plan to continue this practice, in whole or in part, once the pandemic subsidies. 

The sustainability of this practice is putting increased pressure on organizations to optimize their remote technology solutions for collaboration, communication, monitoring, security, and performance evaluation when working from a distance.

Of course, applying technical solutions to workplace challenges is nothing new for HR. For almost two decades, technological innovations have helped HR departments become far more efficient, eliminating redundancies while vastly improving data integrity.

By automating a wide range of time-consuming business functions, HR professionals have been liberated to shift their focus from rote administrative tasks to high-impact tasks like strategy, employee engagement, and change management. 

In fact, according to PwC’s 2020 Human Resources Technology Survey, the core issues driving HR technology decisions today include: 

  • Finding, attracting, and retaining talent 
  • Developing people to reach their full potential
  • Improving the employee experience 
  • Creating collaborative work environments 
  • Workforce planning 
  • Ensuring employee well-being, diversity, and inclusivity 

With HR technology solutions in abundance to help enhance the overall employee experience, transform businesses, and assist organizations responding to change, here are five HR technology trends to watch for in 2021.

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Topics: Technology, Telemedicine, COVID-19

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Prescription Drug Pricing Trends

Jeff Griffin

As prescription drug costs continue to increase, it’s important for employers to understand the trends behind the rise and what they can do to better manage their health care expenses.

This blog post sets out to provide context for why prescription prices continue to rise and offers cost-cutting solutions for employers and employees.

Prescription Drug Cost Drivers

In 2019, the United States spent nearly $370 billion on prescription drugs, keeping trend with significant increases year over year. Although prescription drug spending has historically been a small proportion of national health care costs compared to hospital and physician services, it has grown rapidly in recent years—comprising about 10% of national health care spending.

A multitude of reasons led to this steady rise in prescription drug costs, including the following.

Influx of Specialty Drugs

Specialty medications account for a smaller portion of U.S. prescriptions than non-specialty drugs, yet they commanded nearly half of the pharmaceutical market in 2016 ($180 billion). And that dominance is likely to remain. Specialty drug spending is projected to experience rapid growth over the next several years, due to pricing increases.

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Topics: Cost Containment, Prescription Drugs

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5 Telehealth Trends to Watch in 2021

Jeff Griffin

Employers that are interested in cutting their health care expenses are likely familiar with telehealth. This is the process of communicating with a doctor via an app, or a webcam and computer. During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth usage skyrocketed, making it one of the most popular ways to receive health care.

As such, employers should stay apprised of notable telehealth trends to ensure they stay competitive and provide the best health care options to their employees. This article discusses five telehealth trends to watch for in 2021.

1. More Patient Utilization of Telehealth

As was stated, telehealth exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. To put that into figures, nearly half (43.5%) of Medicare primary care visits in April 2020 were made using telehealth, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. And even before the pandemic, year-over-year utilization was up 33% in early 2020, according to Medical Economics.

If these statistics aren’t enough to prove that telehealth is here to stay, look instead at market projections. The telehealth market is estimated to surmount $185 billion by 2026, according to Fortune Business Insights. Considering the market was only worth around $34 billion in 2018, this shows how much of an impact telehealth has made on the health care industry.

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Topics: Cost Containment, Telemedicine, COVID-19

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Can Employers Require COVID-19 Vaccinations, Should They, and Where to Start?

Jeff Griffin

Almost half of Americans state they will not get vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus – at least not right away. Some of this stems from the speed at which the vaccines are being developed, but also from a segment of the population that has always been suspicious of any vaccines (so-called anti-vaxxers).

The possibility that large swaths of the U.S. population may refuse or delay getting any one of the COVID-19 vaccines presents a serious challenge to the nation's health and the health of our business economy.

Employers are in a unique position to help propel vaccinations, accelerating the country towards the 75% vaccination target that has been cited by top infectious disease experts as being required to fully eliminate the need for social distancing.

Company leaders find themselves in this unique position because it's widely believed that they can, in most cases, legally compel their employees to get vaccinated, making it compulsory and a requirement for returning to work.

Now just because something can be done doesn't necessarily mean it should be done. There are persuasive arguments to be made on both sides of the issue. There are also some exceptions to consider, and some basic questions to be answered, such as where to even start among the workforce. We'll do our best to answer a few of these questions today.

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Topics: wellness, Legislation, workplace wellness

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Virtual Company Holiday Party Ideas During Coronavirus Pandemic

Jeff Griffin

Given the tremendous challenges surrounding in-person gatherings, employers everywhere have been torn between hosting, postponing, or outright canceling their company holiday parties in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outsourcing firm that conducts an annual survey of workplace holiday festivities, most employers are either canceling their parties altogether or are hosting them virtually this holiday season. 

 

Their annual survey found that only 23 percent of organizations plan to host a year-end celebration in 2020, down from 76 percent in 2019 - a decline of more than two thirds. And of companies who are planning on holding a holiday party, three out of four are doing so virtually.

 

Since the vast majority of companies who plan to celebrate are embracing virtual as the ideal way to save the day, here are some suggestions and ideas for your party planning committee to consider.

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Topics: Company Culture

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How a Biden Administration Might Impact Employee Benefits, HR and the Workplace

Jeff Griffin

Each presidential transition brings changes to the HR and employee benefits landscape. When President Donald Trump took office in 2016, he overturned or revised many of his predecessor’s federal regulations, a common trend between administrations of opposing parties. It is also something likely to continue under President elect Joe Biden.

With any legislative change - regardless of intent or outcome - employers must adapt quickly or risk penalties. This can mean redrafting internal policies, recategorizing workers, changing organizational priorities, rewriting employee handbooks, and any other HR responsibility. Essentially, the more prepared an HR team is, the easier it will be for them to succeed in a changing landscape.

Some of the policies upon which Biden campaigned may not come to fruition. Moreover, wide-sweeping workplace changes may be stifled due to congressional gridlock, though Biden will retain the ability to affect change through executive orders.

However, thinking about these issues early can help inform operational planning and prevent last-minute scrambling when change arrives. To that end, this week’s blog post discusses potential changes employers can expect during a Biden presidency. Here are nine areas to watch;

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Topics: Legislation

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An Employer’s Guide to the Legalization of Marijuana in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota & Mississippi

Jeff Griffin

As of yesterday, Arizona’s new law legalizing recreational marijuana usage began its phased roll-out. Joining Arizona this year in passing less restrictive marijuana laws are Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, all of whom legalized recreational marijuana, and Mississippi, who voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

While all marijuana use remains illegal under federal law, the approval of recreational/medical marijuana use at the local level in these states impacts the drug use policies and procedures employers have in place for both applicants and employees. These include how employers can approach testing and disciplinary procedures.

These states are not, of course, the first to legalize marijuana. Eleven other states previously voted in favor of recreational marijuana laws, and 22 have passed medical marijuana legislation. It is therefore helpful to use the experiences of employers in these states as an example to follow.

In this post we will discuss federal and state marijuana legislation, employer and employee rights and responsibilities, specifics about the five states enacting new legislation, and steps employers can take now to be prepared as these new laws roll out.

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Topics: Company Culture, Legislation

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Crucial Employee Benefits Trends [2020 Employee Benefits Benchmarking Study]

Jeff Griffin

For the past 15 years United Benefit Advisors® (UBA), of whom JP Griffin Group is a proud member, has surveyed thousands of employers across the nation regarding their health plan offerings, their ongoing plan decisions in the face of significant legislative and marketplace changes, and the impact of these changes on their employees and businesses. 

The UBA Health Plan Survey has become the nation’s largest independent health plan benchmarking survey and the most comprehensive source of reliable benchmarking data for employers. 

In fact, UBA’s survey is nearly three times larger than the nations’ next two largest health plan benchmarking surveys combined. The resulting volume of data provides employers of all sizes more detailed—and therefore more meaningful—benchmarks and trends than any other source.

UBA recently released its 2020 Employee Benefits Health Plan Survey. This year’s survey aggregates inputs from over 11,788 employers, 21,980 health plans, and 1.3 million nationwide employees. 

The scope of this year’s survey allows regional, industry-specific, and employee size differentials to emerge from the data. In addition, the large number of plans represented allows for both a broader range of categories by plan type than traditionally reported, and a larger number of respondents in each category.

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Topics: Benchmarking

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Why Your Employees Aren’t Enrolling In Your HDHP

Jeff Griffin

Employers looking to decrease their healthcare costs often rely on workforce adoption of High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs), which offer both employers and employees lower premiums. Unfortunately, if employees are given a choice, this strategy doesn’t always work if enrollment in HDHPs fall short of forecasts.

Rightly or wrongly, HDHPs have been saddled with some baggage. Many people have difficulty making the cognitive leap from traditional healthcare plans to HDHPs for a variety of reasons; in part because change is generally difficult for people, but sometimes, it’s simply a fear of the unknown and a matter of not understanding how they work.

While we certainly aren’t advocating that HDHPs are suitable for everyone, they’re a great fit for some. Particularly, those who are otherwise overpaying for health insurance, meaning that they’re paying high premiums, but rarely using their plans.

Here are some reasons your employees might not be enrolling in your HDHP — and how you can increase HDHP enrollment.

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Topics: Cost Containment, Education, HSAs, High Deductible Health Plans

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